The Belfast Giants welcome the Elite League leading Sheffield Steelers to the Odyssey Arena for their eagerly awaited doubleheader with the first game on Friday night.
Steve Thornton’s side are fourth in the standings but only three points off first place so a sweep could see them move above the Steelers.
The Giants are 5-1 in their six holiday games so far including Tuesday night’s 9-3 thumping of Dundee and with packed houses expected over the next two night’s they’ll want to take advantage of being at home.
“These are easily the two biggest games of the season so far, but I guess we say that every week,” explained Thornton.
“But we know what can happen in the standings if we can win these two games.
“Sheffield has had a few more days off than we have to get ready to prepare but we are seeing some chemistry develop on our lines and we know what’s at stake.”
Sheffield are still smarting from two Christmas defeats to arch rivals Nottingham Panthers, games that they know if they’d won would have almost ruled the Panthers out of the title race but as it is this is a true 5-team battle heading into the New Year and something supporters are looking forward to.
“It’s one of those years where there is so much parity in the league that it comes down to hot goaltending and to having a good powerplay but also that chemistry and right now our roster is good.
“But we need to find a way not to pick up any more injuries because we’re gelling.
“And it was nice against Dundee that some guys found a way to score who maybe have been squeezing their sticks a little tight recently which was good,” added Thornton.
Colin Shields was one of those players and he scored a hat-trick against the Stars including his 200th Elite League goal and now he’s all set to battle the Steelers.
“With first place potentially on the line the guys will have no problems getting up for these games.
“Whenever you face one of the big teams in the league like Sheffield you want to make sure you come out on top in the head-to-head battles at the end of the season.
“The boys have put New Year on hold and are focused on the hockey.
“They have worked very hard over the festive period and they will continue to work hard until the end of the season and keep looking to improve as the season goes on,” he added,